In our previous blog post we discussed the first of the 6As on the path to population health management – Acquisition – and how data collection of data is the initial step in gaining valuable insights to improve overall healthcare practices. With acquired data comes the need to securely and seamlessly aggregate that data to attain actionable insights from it. This leads to our second A – Aggregation.

Putting the Pieces Together

All aggregated data needs to be collected in a way that allows for easy and correct interpretation. In an integrated IT infrastructure, each system contributing data will have its own characteristics and conventions for formatting and sharing, and data formats can be altered due to differing versions of software in use. Further complicating the process is the fact that once the system expands, data from new sources such as labs, pharmacies and tertiary care facilities will begin to flow in.

To avoid potential pitfalls, systems need to standardise terminology and ensure that the data is always aligned with the correct source (patient, provider, facility, etc.). Failing to do so opens up the risk of misinterpretation, rendering any insights performed unusable. Or worse, the false insights are adopted resulting in poor patient outcomes.

Despite the risks, Canada has been very successful in surpassing these kinds of barriers. New Brunswick, for example, innately creates a complex environment for fluid data aggregation. It is a bilingual province requiring an infrastructure that is equally competent in English and French in order for proper data analysis to take place. By leveraging several clinical information systems throughout the province, they designed a 'One Patient, One Record' solution that consolidates patient history and information for care providers. The province selected Orion Health's Rhapsody Engine to power this solution and through it, gained the ability to transform any data received into a comprehensive HL7 compliant format. Combined with stringent standardisation and regulations, the New Brunswick Department of Health is now able to aggregate actionable data regardless of the source or language it comes in.

Home is where the heart is

Even with the ability to read collected patient data, the backbone of any proper aggregation plan is a Clinical Data Repository (CDR). Data needs a secure place to 'call home', and that is best found in the form of a centralized data repository so that normalized data has a base of access for analytics to be run across the entire province or territory.

Once again, the New Brunswick Department of Health has been a shining Canadian example of the power of a CDR. New Brunswick used Orion Health's CDR to create a single aggregation point in the form of a consolidated repository for health information. Due to Rhapsody's flexibility and scalability, the CDR will include lab test results, medical images and radiology reports, care plans, discharge summaries and even mental health reports once it has been fully connected province-wide. 'One Patient, One Record' will allow authorised healthcare providers within the province secure access to an array of results and reports profiling patient encounters made through Orion Health's Clinical Portal.

This all-encompassing data aggregation helps healthcare providers make more informed decisions and will improve their ability to collaborate when creating patient care plans. Ultimately, the province will be able to service their population's health more effectively as a result of having more comprehensive access to their population's health information. In short, a CDR allows for quicker accessibility to data and makes it easier to analyse. It is the key technical step that allows for data to be analysed and insights made actionable. That said, useful data is nothing if care providers don't have access to it in order to provide the context and improve care plans. So look for our next blog where we will cover the third A – Access.